Fall 2008 Newsletter

Letter to the Editor

On July 4, 2008 at 9:00 a.m., Mesa Vista Veterinary Hospital in Raton, NM lost our German shepherd, Star. At 2:00 p.m. our beautiful, sweet dog fell off Raton Goat Hill and died a traumatic death. This is her story.

Nine years ago, we rescued a one-year-old German Shepherd from PACA (People Against Cruelty to Animals) in Albuquerque. She was an abused, shy, scared puppy. Our daughter, Kristen, was 7 years old at the time. From the day we rescued her Star was much more than a pet. Kristen and Star were always together. They loved to run the agility courses Kristen made for her and they took long walks together. Kristen would sneak Star in at night to sleep in her room. She thought we didn't know, but we did. Star loved vacations to the beach, camping, and laying in the grass.

As Kristen and Star grew, so did our family. We added a Chihuahua puppy, although some people thought this combination might not work. Boy, were they wrong. Star took care of the puppy as if it were her own. Her gentleness was amazing. They were great companions.

Kristen is the youngest of our six children. Our older children married and we have ten grandchildren who all adored Star. She loved them, too. Star enjoyed having the top of her head rubbed so she encouraged everyone to rub her by nudging their arm.

On July 1st we went to visit family in Raton and on July 2nd we decided that, since Star was terrified of fireworks and thunder, she would be safer at the Mesa Vista Veterinary Hospital kennels under the care of Dr. Truman Smith and staff. At the time of registration, we made sure the staff knew we would pick Star up in the mornings and return her in the evenings. We planned to leave her at Mesa Vista all day on the 4th because we thought the noisy events would frighten her. We made a point of telling them about her fear of loud noises, and made sure her kennel was indoors. We left her with her collar and lead and a cell phone number where we could be reached.

On July 3rd we picked Star up and took her fishing with Kristen and the rest of the family. After a great day at the lake with her, we returned Star to Mesa Vista at around 4:30 p.m.. Little did we know, that would be the last time we would see her alive.

On July 4th, the caretaker took Star out of her kennel for a walk. The caretaker decided to let her walk without her lead. Dr. Smith later told us Star scaled the fence, managed to get out and headed toward town. Mesa Vista staff called and left one message on our cell phone, but never tried to reach us again the rest of that day.

On July 5th at 8:00 AM, we called Mesa Vista to pick Star up. That is when we found out she'd run away. Our whole family searched different parts of town, some of us driving and some on foot. We called the police department and radio station, and we stopped people asking everyone we saw to help us find her.

A little over a year ago, we sold a vacation home in Raton. We went to Raton to visit family and get away from the hustle of the city. Star knew this house well since she'd been coming with us once or twice a month for years. This home was located at the base of the Raton Goat hill. We thought she might go to the old house, so we headed there, calling and whistling for her. A family heard us calling her and stopped to tell us a dog had fallen off Raton Goat Hill and died around 2:00 p.m. on the 4th.

My husband, Kristen and I followed a woman, who showed us were the dog was. We were crying and praying it wouldn't be our Star, and sick over the fact that this could happen to any dog. There in the ditch laid our sweet Star, broken and full of ants. My husband picked her up and carried her down the hill to our truck. Kristen cried hysterically with grief, as did the rest of us. He took off her collar and handed it to Kristen.

What hurts most is that we cannot understand why Dr. Smith and the Mesa Vista Veterinary Hospital staff, who are supposed to be there to care for and protect animals, didn't call us with an apology or explanation about what happened that morning. We called Dr. Smith and he hung up on us. We have so many questions: Why did they just leave one message for us? Why didn't they keep trying to reach us? Why was she out without a lead? Why did they stop looking for her?

We are still saddened by the tragedy of losing our companion and protector. This tragedy should not have happened. The staff of Mesa Vista Animal Hospital, in our opinion, was negligent and do not have compassion for the animals left in their care or the families who leave much-loved companions under their supervision. We left Star to protect her from the noise of the holiday and on her last day, she was frightened and died with all the fireworks going off over her.


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